A short, voluptuous Chinese woman bends over at the kitchen sink, slurping instant noodles. She stands out from the group of giggly, 20-somethings chatting away in the corner. They work in the same startup company, but perhaps it’s their age difference, they don’t include her in their conversation.
It’s a shame, because she’s just told me something really exciting about herself. Something that’s sparked my interest because it’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve heard in a long time.
In her business skirt and blouse, and large square glasses, she recounts, in an animated fashion, the reason why her journalism career was cut short:
I’m crying in the back seat of the car. My boss is sitting next to me. We’ve just come back from an interview with a local farmer and we’ve witnessed something not so good. It upsets me.
My boss turns to me and says,“Stop crying, you’ll get used to this. You’ll learn to shut off your emotions. I did.”
At that point, I look at her. I admired her. But I didn’t want to become like her. I didn’t want to get used to it. I didn’t want to numb myself from other people’s pain. It was clear to me that journalism was not the right career path for me. So I quit.
When you look at Tina, you wouldn’t expect her to be the kind of person who follows her heart. A thirty year old woman, who grew up in traditional China, in a traditional neighbourhood, you’d expect her to be, well, more traditional.
These “follow your heart” idioms are words I’d expect the 20-somethings sitting to her left to sprout out. But, as she says, she is the type of person who follows her heart.
My husband thinks I’m crazy, she tells me one evening at a Christmas party.
I sent a letter to the CEO of The Warehouse. Could I interview him? I explained that I was doing a research paper on leadership: What does it take for a female, especially an Asian female, to get into a leadership position?
My husband thinks it makes no sense,“Why would the CEO of The Warehouse, agree to an interview with you?”
Apparently, this type of banter is common in their household. He’s the logical one, the software engineer. She’s the emotional one, the HR, the coach, the woman who’s curious about people.
But to her surprise, she gets a reply from the CEO of The Warehouse. He’s agreed to her interview. She’s already done it. She took an hour of unpaid leave to go and interview him.
Unpaid leave? Another thing her husband thinks is crazy.
It went exceptionally well, so well in fact, that he’s agreed to another interview.
I’m starting to notice something really interesting about her. She tells great stories. She has a way of drawing people into them. I think it’s because she does what she believes in, that’s why she is able to speak with such passion.
And after that? Any more line ups?
Yes, there’s Air NZ. I figure if I send out a lot of letters, I’m bound to get rejected by some, but I won’t care as much, because I’ve got others down the pipeline.
She pauses, mid-sentence.
Anyway, I talk too much and you’re such a great listener. Next time, I want to know more about you.
I laugh. A woman who follows her heart. And takes action. And wants to know more about me? That is a rare gem of a woman.